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IN THIS ISSUE Pub & Brewery News Cider Month Supermarkets & Pubs National Cask Ale Week CAMPAIGN for REAL ALE

Admiral Taverns

Time to Retreat As hinted at in the previous issue, Jane Marsden and Bernie Whiten are to leave the Retreat in Reading's St. John's Street at the end of their tenancy in November.

Jane and Bernie have presided over this unique pub for 10 years and have made it a true part of the community. Over the years the Retreat has had possibly the widest and weirdest selection of things going on of any Reading pub … beer festivals, blues nights, ukulele lessons, eggs for sale, poetry recitals, battery recycling and pickled onion competitions, to mention just a few. With the publication of the 2013 Good Beer Guide, the Retreat has become the

most-honoured pub in the area, with 25 entries out of a possible 38. Will it make it to 26? Unfortunately the pubco that owns it, Admiral Taverns, doesn't seem to think that's very important and has refused to make a feasible offer that would allow Jane and Bernie to carry on running the business. Find out more about Admiral inside. To contact us, send an e-mail to editor@readingcamra.org.uk – I look forward to hearing what you think! Cheers, Phil Gill Editor

• ISSUE TWENTY THREE • AUTUMN 2012 • FREE - PLEASE TAKE A COPY The magazine for the Reading and Mid Berkshire branch of CAMRA

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Branch Diary Events are open to all unless specified. SEPTEMBER Tue 25: New Members’ Social. 20.00 at The Hope Tap, 99-105 Friar Street, Reading, RG1 1EP. Sat 29: Beer Census. How many real ales are on sale in Reading today? More details elsewhere in this issue.

Thu 15: Branch AGM. 20.00 at Eldon Arms, 19 Eldon Terrace, Reading, RG1 4DX (right hand bar). CAMRA members only. Sat 17: Regional business meeting. 13.00 at the Old Manor, The Ring, Bracknell, RG12 1BP. CAMRA members only.

OCTOBER Thu 4: First Thursday of the Month social. 20.00 at Wargrave Snooker Club, Church Street, Wargrave, RG10 8EP. Mon 8: Branch meeting. 20.00, Curzon Club, 362 Oxford Road, Reading, RG30 1AQ. CAMRA members only. Sun 21: Walking Social in Twyford. Meet at Reading station at 11.45. 1st pub is Waggon & Horses, 61 High Street, Twyford, RG10 9AJ at 12.00. Fri 26: Curry Night. Meet 19.30 onwards for drinks at the Conservative Club, High Street, Southall, UB1 3HB, then restaurant at 21.00. Event contact: John Robinson 0118 940 2787 / 0790 434 3187.

DECEMBER Thu 6: First Thursday of the Month social. 20.00, venue TBC.

NOVEMBER Thu 1: First Thursday of the Month social. 20.00, venue TBC.

UPCOMING BEER FESTIVALS 22-23 September: Beer Stampede at The Elephant, High Street, Pangbourne, RG8 7AR. 5-6 October: Ascot Racecourse Beer Festival http://ascotbeerfest.seberkscamra.org.uk See www.readingcamra.org.uk for updates. For details of an event with no contact listed, or to suggest an event or receive regular e-mail updates of the branch diary, contact Dan Cane-Honeysett: dan.c.honeysett@googlemail.com or 07811 403701.

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Pub and Brewery News Pub News Calcot Real ale has returned to the HORNCASTLE, with Doom Bar available at £3 a pint. We visited MURDOCHS on the same evening and found a tidy looking bar with an inviting conservatory. The beers were Marstons EPA and Brakspear Ordinary, although there’s usually only one on at a time. Caversham A chance visit to the RED COW showed a distinct improvement over the previous experience. Real ale was on (Doom Bar) in good condition, and the welcome was much improved. Both pub and garden are huge, with lots of potential. Red Cow

Coley Park There's only one pub left around here, the ROUNDHEAD, and its freehold is for sale. A recent drive-by saw lights on in half the building but little in the way of customers. Emmer Green A visitor to the GARDENERS ARMS in Surley Row reported that it had the usual three Greene King beers but at most unusual prices: all only £2.55 - £2.65.

Seven Stars Knowl Hill There’s a planning application in to convert the closed SEVEN STARS into three houses. This was a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide, featuring in 20 editions, most recently in 2008 and 2009. Only five pubs in the area have been in the Guide more often. This isn’t how a proud grade 2 listed pub should end its days and we are strongly objecting. Reading The BLAGRAVE ARMS in Blagrave Street has closed again. The ongoing sewer works outside by Thames Water can’t have helped, but this seems to have been a pub that’s struggled to work out what its market is in recent months. Hopefully a new tenant can be found who will restore it to its previous glory. There's an application for extended licensing hours so let's see what happens. As we went to press we were eagerly looking forward to a special Ascot Ales Night at the NAGS HEAD in Russell Street. Planned for just before publication date, all 12 pumps were due to be dedicated to Ascot beers, with several unique dry-hopped versions available. This was to celebrate Ascot's success in the LocAle of the Festival awards at Reading this year – winner of the speciality category and silver overall.

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A real ale gain in the town centre is the GEORGE HOTEL, which now serves Youngs Bitter through a solitary handpump. We visited on a quiet evening when nobody else seemed to be drinking it, and had the bizarre experience of the first half out of the pipes being much better than the second. It doesn’t look like becoming a rival to the Alehouse across the road. There's a planning application in to convert the QUEEN ELIZABETH on George Street into four flats. Some of the smashed windows have been repaired in a rudimentary way but there's no great signs of the place being taken care of. Queen Elizabeth


Gospoda was one of a whole bunch of Reading pubs that Admiral Taverns recently put up for sale. The others, which should still be open and deserve our support, are the PHEASANT, RED LION, FORESTERS ARMS and the RETREAT. There's more on Admiral Taverns elsewhere in this issue. Meanwhile, we’ve just heard that Trish Durkan plans to leave the Foresters and move to Portugal. Riseley At the BULL, the new manager Amanda is doing a good job. On a recent visit we found a very friendly atmosphere and three Shepherd Neame ales on in good condition.

The QUEENS HEAD on Christchurch Road closed for a while but has reopened with new licencees – beers on offer on a recent visit were Wadworth 6X and a Brains seasonal, in fair condition. In the same part of town, the University Senior Common Room now seems to have a Fullers tie-in. Two of their ales, Chiswick and Wild River were on sale recently in good nick and at £2.40 per pint.

Shurlock Row There are plans to build a house next door to the SHURLOCK INN. This pub is owned by a group of local people who bought and reopened it a few years ago after the other village pub closed. The intention is that the house would help raise money to improve the viability of the pub. It’s well worth a visit and the food and beer have been excellent whenever we’ve popped in. Shurlock

The former Polish pub GOSPODA on Oxford Road, once known as the Battle Inn, should now have reopened as THE ROYAL. Cask ale was advertised but, as far as we know, there's no equipment to serve it so that might take a while to appear. Why not call in and send us your review?

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Spencers Wood A change of hands at the FARRIERS ARMS has seen the return of a former landlord, Pete. He plans to stay for at least five years and the exterior of the pub has seen a makeover. Three ales were on from the Marstons range – Pedigree, Ringwood Best and a Ringwood seasonal, all in good condition. Streatley Over the summer we wandered past the SWAN HOTEL, had a brief look, concluded it was unlikely to serve real ale and moved on. A few weeks later we read this entry on the Pubs Galore website by Will Larter: “Although it doesn't put itself forward as a pub, there is a public bar down some steps to the right of reception and along a corridor lined with spectacular pictures of sailing ships. There is a small bar with just one hand pump … Outside there's an outdoor seating area by the river, which is very pleasant. The solitary ale is Old Father Thames from West Berkshire brewery, very similar to Brakspears Bitter, having the same

strength of 3.4%. This was my very first £4 pint – strictly speaking it was priced at £3.95 a pint, but my half was £2”. Thanks for your info, Will, and we obviously need to look harder next time! Although we missed the beer at the Swan, we did enjoy a visit to the BULL up the road. It's been nicely refurbished and we enjoyed three decent beers from the Marstons range. It looks as though a lot of money has been spent on the place, particularly the garden. Swallowfield Bottled Tutts Clump cider is now available at the CROWN. Brewery News Ascot September's Single Hop beer will be Pilot, which uses a hedgerow variety that has earthy, herbal aromas and good bitterness. Bullion is the Single Hop offering for October. Aureole Ale (3.3%) is now a

The garden at the Bull

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regular beer, and has a citrussy, grapefruit aroma and taste. The brewery should have a stand at the Ascot Farmers’ Market from September onwards. Also, the brewer's brother has just started up a handmade chocolate business called Gill's Chocolates (www.gillschocolates.co.uk), which should go well with the ales. By the way, the editor of Mine's a Pint is no relation to these guys but does like beer and chocolate! Binghams This brewery has started a transatlantic collaboration with The Library in Winter Park, Colorado. Each will be brewing the other's beers and the first US recipe available over here is Rattlesnake Rye Pale Ale (5.0%). It uses a blend of American hops and rye malt, producing an excellent beer that's full of flavour. Hopefully the Brickworks Bitter that's been brewed in the states will go down equally well. This collaboration is all the result of a chance meeting back in February, when Chris Bingham was enjoying a beer on holiday after a hard day's snowboarding and bumped into the brewer from The Library. Loddon Loddon have been chosen for the official Reading FC Madejski Stadium Pie. The steak and ale pie, made by Peters Foods using Hullabaloo ale, is available on match days. Unfortunately you still can’t buy a LocAle in the Mad Stad, but hopefully this might be a stepping stone. Two Cocks Things must be going well at this new

brewery, as we hear they plan to double production. Windsor and Eton A new summer ale is Eton Boatman (4.3%), a citrussy, fruity beer that uses Citra and Galaxy hops. As previously planned there is to be a third Jubilee beer, to follow the excellent Treetops and Kohinoor, but we don't yet know the details. Outside of our immediate area but still within easy striking distance, are Vale and Aylesbury breweries. They got in touch recently to tell us their news, so here it is: “We sell in the Reading area and I thought that some info and updates on the Vale Brewery and Aylesbury Brewhouse may be of interest. If you are not familiar, when Vale expanded to a 20 bbl* plant we located the old 8 bbl plant behind our pub, the Hop Pole in Aylesbury. All beers there are brewed by the same team as at Vale but each is a unique and different brew. They have been exceptionally well received. A 6.8% IPA was brewed with Roger Protz and that will be available in bottles later this year.” The September special from Vale is “Old Chainey”, a 4.1% tawny coloured bitter that's named after the first locomotives used on the Brill Tramway. Meanwhile, the IPA mentioned above from Aylesbury is “Sink or Swim”, brewed to a Victorian recipe and conditioned for 5 months. A very limited release in cask is to be followed by the remainder in bottles ready for the brewery's first birthday on 1 December. * 1 bbl = 1 brewer's barrel = 288 pints

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Contact Us Useful contact details for this magazine, CAMRA and other important things… Mine's a Pint Circulation: 2,500. Outlets: Over 70 across the region. Editor: Phil Gill editor@readingcamra.org.uk 0771 455 0293 81 Addison Road, Reading, RG1 8EG For advertising enquiries please contact Jane Michelson or Chris Shilling: 01778 420888 / 421550 jane@shillingmedia.co.uk Reading & Mid Berkshire CAMRA www.readingcamra.org.uk Branch contact: Katrina Fletcher contact@readingcamra.org.uk 0779 401 9437 Social Secretary: Dan Cane-Honeysett dan.c.honeysett@googlemail.com 07811 403701

Trading Standards Reading Borough Council: www.reading.gov.uk 0118 937 3737 West Berkshire Council: www.westberks.gov.uk 01635 519930 Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead: www.rbwm.gov.uk 01628 683800 Wokingham Borough Council: www.wokingham.gov.uk 0118 974 6400 The next issue of Mine's a Pint will be published in December. Please feel free to submit copy or ideas by the end of November. The opinions expressed in Mine's a Pint are not necessarily those of the editor or the Campaign for Real Ale. © Campaign for Real Ale 2012.

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Small Beer A roundup of news and information....... pressure on the Government to abandon the beer duty escalator in the 2013 Budget.

There are no additions to or deletions from our list of LocAle accredited pubs since the last issue, but we're still keen to hear about any new pubs that serve a local beer. As a reminder, this means a beer brewed within 30 miles of Kings Meadow, Reading, which includes the following breweries: m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m

Adkin Andwell Appleford Ascot Ales Aylesbury Bellinger’s Binghams Botanist Butts Chiltern Complete Pig Crondall Farnham Flowerpots Hogs Back Itchen Valley Loddon Longdog Loose Cannon

m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m

Old Bog Ramsbury Rebellion Sherfield Village Shotover Tillingbourne Thame Tring Triple fff Twickenham Two Bridges Two Cocks Vale West Berkshire White Horse Windsor and Eton XT Zerodegrees

Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive, said: “The fact Britons are forced to pay over 40% of the EU beer tax bill, but consume only 13% of the beer sold in Europe, is remarkable. British beer in a pub is so heavily hit with duty and VAT, the tax man’s whirlwind hikes translate to him guzzling a third of every pint served, a shadow cast over the beer drinker depriving people of an affordable night down their local." If you haven't signed the petition yet, please make a special effort to do so. To sign, visit saveyourpint.co.uk Recently some CAMRA branch members met with Alok Sharma, the Reading West MP, at the Foresters Arms. Alok, a Ministerial aide, discussed a wide range of issues and was pressed on CAMRA's local campaigns. Pictured here are Dan Cane-Honeysett from CAMRA, Alok Sharma and Trish from the Foresters.

Save Your Pint At the time of writing, the number of signatures on the e-petition to scrap the beer duty tax escalator had passed the 90,000 mark. It needs 100,000 signatures in order to trigger a high profile Parliamentary debate which will put

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Continued overleaf...

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Publicity Following the mention in the last issue, we're pleased to announce that Carl Mellors has agreed to take on the role of branch publicity officer. You may have seen Carl behind the bar at Reading's Alehouse. Thanks to Carl for taking on the job, and welcome on board. If you'd like to take on a role within the branch, or just find out a bit more about what we do, why not come along to our AGM on 15 November? It's in the Eldon Arms and it starts at 8pm. Champion Beer of Britain Coniston Brewery's “No. 9 Barley Wine” is this year's Champion Beer of Britain. It's been 14 years since Coniston entered the contest, and they won it then as well with Bluebird. Don't expect to see No 9 Barley Wine too widely available, as it's usually only brewed once a year. Your Daley Pint According to CAMRA research, Daley Thompson is the British sporting hero the nation's pub-goers would most like to share a pint with. The gold medallist in the decathlon at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics beat Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes to the title. Linford Christie, Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington rounded out the top six. CAMRA's Head of Marketing, Tony Jerome, said “I doubt he ever needs to pick up the tab at his local.”

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National Cask Ale Week The idea comes from a recent competition between Norwich and York, both of which thought they had the greatest beer range and wanted to prove it. Norwich won by 254 beers to 247 and, while we know we'll never get to numbers like that in Reading, it would be great to break into three figures.

“Only in Britain, only in pubs!” That's the theme of National Cask Ale Week, which celebrates our national drink and encourages people to get back into pubs and drink real ale. Between 28 September and 7 October, pubs across the country will be taking part with the central theme of “try before you buy”. The success of British pubs and real ale is inextricably linked. Colin Valentine, CAMRA's chairman, said “No other British food or drink has the support of such a large group of organised customers. Let's use Cask Ale Week to do what we're best at – introducing new people to real ale and celebrating it ourselves.”

To take part in the beer census, e-mail Quinno on bluemondayuk@hotmail.com to register your interest. We need people to sign up to survey pubs and note some basic information like the range of beers and the prices. It'll work best if we can split things up so that each person only has to survey a few pubs, so the more people that take part, the better. HQ for the day will be the Retreat in St John's Street. CAMRA will be based in there and collect together the information from all the surveyors. Hopefully we can announce on the night the grand total of real ales available in Reading. And what's the purpose of all this? It's to showcase the huge variety in the local real ale scene and give people an extra reason to visit their local. Let's make it a good day.

Beer Census So just how widely is cask ale available in Reading? We're planning a “beer census” to find out, and you can take part. The idea is to survey as many as possible of the pubs in town to see how many different real ales are on sale on one day. That day is Saturday 29 September, and you can help us to make the census as comprehensive as possible.

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Cider Month

Following a Conference decision many years ago, support for real cider and perry is CAMRA policy. That support can take many forms, and at a local level you can’t have failed to miss the more than 200 ciders and perries available at this year’s Reading Beer and Cider Festival, including a whole bay from local producers.

Many people, when they join CAMRA, are surprised to find that the campaign supports not only real ale, but also real cider and perry. Although this support is given year-round, October is specially selected as Cider Month. CAMRA has a sub-group called “APPLE” that campaigns tirelessly for these historic and traditional drinks, and Cider Month is the highlight of the cidercampaigning year. CAMRA has about 200 Branches across the UK and they show varying degrees of interest and support for real cider and perry. Some have cider activists within their ranks and take great interest in promoting and supporting cider and perry. For others, to quote from a recent branch meeting, “APPLE is an appendage”. Gill Williams, one of the foremost cider supporters within CAMRA, points out that “To some branches cider appears once or twice a year from the back of a distributor's van, to be sold at a local Beer Festival. In other Branches it is debated and disputed so much it takes up disproportionate amounts of time at branch meetings as its supporters and detractors debate and argue its merits. There has to be a middle way that puts real cider and perry in its rightful place in the Campaign.”

Every October CAMRA runs a cider campaigning trip, and this year it will be based in the Reading area. All the places are unfortunately booked up now, but it shows how much the cider scene has taken off here in recent years. Our branch also awards a “Cider Pub of the Year” certificate, and this year the winner is the Alehouse in Reading, with the Retreat in runner-up spot. Such visible support for real cider and perry can encourage fresh new recruits to join the campaign, who might not otherwise have done so. Marc Holmes, who was eleven times the Organiser of the Great British Beer Festival, is one of them – he only drank cider until he was appointed organiser, but then he felt obliged to drink some ale, and found out that he liked it! So what if CAMRA hadn’t taken that Conference decision all those years ago? Well, perry, one of Britain's most ancient and traditional drinks, would almost certainly have ceased to exist, and cider would probably be fast following on its heels. Gill Williams concludes, “Come October, get the cider and perry bunting out and celebrate the variety and choice which CAMRA has always fought to defend, and which has made it the great consumer campaign it is.” Phil Gill

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Are Supermarkets Killing Our Pubs? Is it the supermarkets? The inexorable rise in beer duty? Or is it the pubcos that are most to blame for killing off community pubs? As CAMRA’s Public Affairs Officer my job is to help the branch lobby local elected politicians to support the campaign’s aims. At a recent branch meeting the role of the supermarkets was highlighted, and so I’m writing this issue to investigate what is happening on that front. In a future issue I'll turn my attention to the thorny issue of the pubcos. Minimum pricing The key campaign CAMRA has led on is the proposal for minimum pricing based on units of alcohol. It’s controversial among the political classes and within CAMRA. All main parties since 2009 have moved from opposing to supporting it, but with significant numbers still opposed to it. The supermarkets hate it, as does the drinks industry, and it’s an issue on which an unusual alliance with health and crime prevention groups exists. The extra money would go to drinks makers and retailers, not the Government. The way it's supposed to work is that the basic price per unit of alcohol would be set at 40p. It would not be a flat rate, so would not affect pubs. The effects of the similar 50p per unit scheme approved by the Scottish Parliament (subject to an EU legal challenge) fall hardest on: • Supermarket own-brand products; • Super-strength lager and cider; • To a much lesser extent, on cheap wine. CAMRA’s support is based on minimum pricing narrowing the gap between supermarket and pub prices. Personally, I don’t think it’s enough without tackling the causes of inflation in the pub trade.

The UK Government had originally planned to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price (duty plus VAT), but this was abandoned when the commitment to minimum pricing was made in March. The minimum £10.71 for a bottle of 40% spirits and £6 for a two-litre bottle of meths-grade “cider” still shouldn’t affect pubs, though CAMRA has to keep an eye open for the current tax breaks for small craft cider producers being eroded.


Groceries Adjudication Bill One other change worth noting, which may help some of those small suppliers of bottle-conditioned beer to supermarkets, is a Bill currently in Parliament. This would give suppliers some protection against supermarkets who have been accused of pricing them out of business. Power of supermarkets Finally there is the whole issue of the monopoly hold of supermarkets themselves. While in some ways this can be beneficial, principally the promotion of bottleconditioned ale, it is mostly a huge negative for the pub.

Since the start of my beer-drinking days post-date mass sale of alcohol in supermarkets, all I can point to is that the price of supermarket booze has stayed remarkably stable and resistant to inflation, whereas the days of the sub-£1 pint have been replaced by the mythical search for the sub-£3 ale. The lawyers for the likes of Tesco will likely charge a fortune to keep their monopolies just out of reach of the statutory bodies designed to thwart them through UK and EU law. Gareth Epps

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3 West Berkshire Ales 5 Guest Ales Real Cider, Perry and Mead

Local CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2012 Pub quiz first Monday of the month

2 Broad Street Reading, RG1 2BH

01189 508119 the-alehouse-reading.co.uk enquiries@thealehousereading.com

A Community pub in the e heart of Reading e Follow us on twitter @AlehouseReading

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Have Your Say CAMRA's Super Regional Conferences This year CAMRA will host six Super Regional Conferences around the country. Their purpose is to act as another channel of communication, to enable members to understand more about how CAMRA works and the preparation of campaign planning. It will be of particular use to anybody that didn’t manage to get to the Members' Weekend and AGM this year. The events will contribute to how CAMRA will deliver its key objectives, discuss what branches and members can do and help prioritise the actions. They’re also to get views as to what else CAMRA should be doing over the next five years. Although branches have much in common, there may be differences in priorities based on local issues and these Conferences will help to build in any variation over the next 5 years. In addition, the Conferences will, hopefully, open up inter-regional conversations, sharing of best practice and get some great ideas from people who do so much work, as well as encouraging some new faces. At the end of the Conferences, CAMRA will have a view as to: • What activities might be missing from the current plans, which branches and members might be asked to lead on. • What members and branches see as their priority actions. • What support they might need to deliver the actions. • What are viewed as the key campaigns for the next five years. If you’re a CAMRA member then the Conferences are open to you. You don’t

have to be actively involved with a branch and you can go to any of the events, not just the one nearest you. Two of the conferences are within easy reach of our area: • 29 September – Bartons Arms, 144 High Street, Aston, Birmingham, B6 4UP • 24 November – Armada House, Telephone Avenue, Bristol, BS1 4BQ

Register now! We'd like as many people as possible to attend but we would ask you to pre-register so that we can send you any papers in advance including the final agenda. All registered members will be sent a confirmation e-mail a week before the conference. Anyone who can’t commit in advance can still register on the day. Please register online through the CAMRA website www.camra.org.uk/login. Log into your Self Service Section on the top right hand corner and select "Go To My Account" followed by "Interests/Clubs". Under the Interests section you will need to select the "Add" tab and select the Super Regional Conference that you wish to attend. Once saved, you will be registered for the event.

“Their purpose is to act as another channel of communication, to enable members to understand more about how CAMRA works.”

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re ”

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CAMRA Mid-Berkshire Pub of the Year 2010 A charming 14th Century Country Inn between Maidenhead and Reading. The Inn serves a host of regularly changing Real Ales.

Forthcoming Events 26th Oct - Best of Broadway. Songs from popular musicals. £19.95 inc. buffet supper. 4th Nov - Bonfire Night. Fantastic firework display. Hog Roast & BBQ. From 6pm. £16 adult/£8 child. Christmas Menus now available. Party Nights, sit down meals, Xmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.

The beautifully refurbished Restaurant overlooks the garden and the Inglenook fire provides a warm and cosy setting. The Inn’s 15 en-suite bedrooms have been completely refurbished. All have the usual facilities including wifi. One room is adapted for the disabled. The Bird in Hand, Bath Road, Knowl Hill, Twyford, Berks RG10 9UP

Call: 01628 826622 / 2781 Email: info@birdinhand.co.uk Visit: www.birdinhand.co.uk

In the top UK Country Pubs for Food 2012. ‘Independent on Sunday’


4 real ales & an extensive wine list Home cooked food from platters, sandwiches, pub classics & daily changing specials from the board • Traditional Sunday Roasts • • 2 course weekly lunch menu £10• Warm & welcoming with log fires and country cottage garden. Small & large parties, menus designed to suit from buffets to three course menus. For information or bookings call Alison or Kier on 01491 671 234 The Red Lion, Aldworth Road, Upper Basildon, Berks RG8 8NG

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Socials Branch

relay pass by and was also used for campaigning purposes - we managed to get over 60 people to sign the Beer Escalator e-petition.

Over the last twelve months the Reading & Mid-Berkshire CAMRA branch has run a number of socials geared towards promoting CAMRA’s aim of encouraging people to visit their local pubs and drink real ale or cider.

From November 2011 through to April 2012 we organised a series of four talks beginning with The Science of Beer given by the British Science Association (at Zerodegrees); Setting up a Brewery by Delia Allot and Chris Bingham (at The Bird in Hand, Knowl Hill); The Science of Cider by Andrew Lea and ending with The History of Reading Pubs by John Dearing (both these talks were at the Retreat, Reading). We run frequent pub crawls visiting pubs in and around Reading including some of those on the ever-popular Ale Trail. In January we went on a pub crawl in London which was attended by all of the branches in the Central South region and in July we organised a cycle social starting in Caversham and ending in Twyford, going via Kennetside, Sonning and Charvil. The route was mainly along cycle tracks or quiet roads and at an easy pace so was suitable for even novice cyclists. The weather was quite kind to us and everyone had a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon!

In addition to our “one-off” socials we have our regular “First Thursday of the Month” socials. These give people a chance to meet CAMRA members in an informal setting outside of Branch Business Meetings. Every month a member of the branch picks a pub in their area and we try and give each part of Reading equal coverage so as to allow people to attend without too much travelling.

Future events will see a second series of beer talks, brewery trips and more cycling socials. If you have any suggestions for socials please let me know. All of our socials are open to anyone, after all you don't need to be a CAMRA member to enjoy going to the pub, and I hope to see some of you very soon! Dan Cane-Honeysett Social Secretary

The social at the Abbot Cook in July was an opportunity to see the Olympic Torch

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Autumn / Winter menu now available We are in the Good Beer Guide 2012

Award Winning Real Cider made by hand with apples mainly from within West Berkshire Available in 275ml and 500ml bottles, 3, 5, 10 and 20 litre bag in box, 5 gallon poly-barrel and 9 gallon non-pressurized plastic barrel to go on bar hand pump.

A beautiful country pub with a relaxed atmosphere, the interior is decorated in warm, earthy tones, with exposed beams and a stunning bar.

Real Fire in Winter • Real Ales High quality home cooked food Fine Wines • Car Park • Childrens Play Area • Well behaved dogs welcome Opening Hours

Fittings to attach a bag in box to a hand pump line also available.

Tel: 0118 974 4649 or 07836 296996 sales@tuttsclumpcider.co.uk www.tuttsclumpcider.co.uk

Monday to Thursday: 12 - 3pm & 6 - 11pm Friday to Saturday: 12 - 11pm Sunday: 12 - 9pm

The Street, Shurlock Row, Berkshire, RG10 0PS

Tel: 0118 934 9094

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Admiral Taverns... Sailing Towards the Rocks? Some of you may be aware that Admiral Taverns are a national pub group and are now apparently the third biggest in the UK. The company was founded in 2004 but went into administration in 2010 after an aggressive acquisition strategy left it with more than £1billion of debt, which it was unable to service. Lloyds Banking Group was forced to do a debt-for-equity swap and pre-pack administration in which it wrote off about £600million of Admiral’s debt in return for 45 per cent of the business. Locally, Admiral acquired various pubs as cast-offs from the likes of Enterprise and

Greene King, subsequently gaining a foothold in the Reading area. After seeing some improvements in their Reading estate a few years back I did wonder whether they had managed to be a rare beast indeed; a large national pub group that actually had an interest in running a successful and diverse estate in tandem with their landlords. However, we have had a spate of problems with Admiral pubs in the last few months; a quick look at: www.admiraltaverns.co.uk/Pubs/Town/Reading finds five pubs up for lease – the Foresters Arms, Pheasant, Red Lion (Southampton Street), Gospoda and the Retreat. Given that the group's ownership of pubs in Reading is in single-digit figures this is an

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astonishing number. The Pheasant, Red Lion and Gospoda have all undergone some degree of refurbishment over the last couple of years. And, most gallingly, two of the listed pubs – the Retreat and the Foresters are regular Good Beer Guide pubs run by experienced and highly competent licensees. The Retreat has been in the Guide for the last 10 years. Complaints from some of the affected licensees are depressingly familiar tales. Lack of flexibility in wet sales, unrealistic forecast sales figures, BDM's (a Regional Manager to you and me) being, allegedly, rejects from the licensed trade somehow finding themselves in a position of telling successful landlords how to run their pubs. To make matters worse, these people last a matter of months so there’s no continuity and no trust relationship. The only experience a number of these BDM’s seem to have is that of failure. Depressingly, we know that Bernie and Jane at the Retreat wanted to continue in the pub and when negotiating a new lease wanted a similar deal to the one that Admiral had struck with the Nags Head - going free of tie on wet products in return for a higher rental rate (Admiral pubs generally have to buy their beer through the pubco which adds a whopping extra % on top of what the barrel would cost if purchased direct from the brewer). Admiral point blank refused, going as far as to say that the deal with the Nags was "a mistake" and would only be offered in future to “ethnic restaurants”! Some mistake, I hear you say. The Nags has gone from strength-tostrength since going free-of-tie, as anyone with a pair of eyes and functioning cerebral cortex can see. Quite why Admiral are doing an impression of the three wise monkeys is mysterious.

Despite Pub Cos trotting out the line that each 'failed tenancy' costs them time and money, they appear unwilling to be able to work with licensees in order to make business work better. Which then makes us wonder why this is so. Incompetency on the Pub Co’s behalf? Or a belligerent strategy to squeeze every last drop out of hardworking individuals who often do weekly shift hours the rest of us would baulk at for a fraction of the monetary reward? In many cases the licensees are on less than minimum wage and sink a good chunk of their own cash into the business – for instance, the massive improvements in the Foresters rear garden came out of the licensee's own pocket. Perhaps it's because having a wet tie keeps the licensee in hock to the Pub Co's whims and price rises via Brulines. We do know that Admiral has financial problems, with the latest figures I can find showing the company to be in debt to the tune of £200 million. We wish the departing licensees well and we can only hope that any incoming tenants aren't given the same run around. We won't be holding our breath, mind. Quinten Taylor

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